Another worst kept secret was confirmed this week when Sonny-Bill, with coaches Ian Foster and Wayne Smith in tow announced that he will be hanging up his sizable rugby union footware after taking up a lucrative offer with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, and heading back the NRL in a deal with the Sydney Roosters.
Apparently Williams made a handshake deal, the details of which are unknown at this stage, with someone at the time of his sudden departure from the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Roosters and rugby league fans will no doubt be looking forward to his return. His offloading ability, defensive tenacity and athleticism should pay dividends to the Roosters. Next year will see him join forces with James Maloney who leaves the Warriors to take up a play making role at the Sydney club as well.
With Maloney’s ability to play to his side’s strengths and put his key players in attacking positions at crucial times in a match, Williams should thrive. It will also be interesting to see where he ends up playing, whether back in the forwards as a ball playing second rower, or in the centers where his size and strength will make him an invaluable weapon for creating and scoring tries.
Since his time away, the NRL hasn’t changed a great deal. The speed of the game is quicker at times, where teams such as the Tigers utilise faster, more agile forward play but it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect ‘SBW’ to slot straight back in to what is still probably a more natural game for him.
Canterbury Bulldogs supporters are perhaps rightly voicing their feelings as they lash out at the man who helped them to a premiership, then ended up jumping ship. We’d like to think it’s unlikely that the same sort of circus act will reoccur, but fans and club officials down at Bondi Junction might be a little nervous. The handshake that Williams says he feels he needs to honor surely holds less weight than the signed legal agreement that he disregarded when he left the Bulldogs.
On top of all this it must be remembered that he’ll continue his professional boxing career. Rumor has it that he has a fight slated in South Africa in between the end of his rugby commitments and the start of his new league contract. Whether he fights during his time with the Roosters still remains to be seen, but should he suffer a major injury in the ring, the club could find themselves in an embarrassing situation.
Steven Kearney is reported to be ecstatic at the prospect of having Sonny Bill Williams when the Kiwis line up again later this year. His presence will no doubt lift the side should he be available.
For the time being it’s still wait and see. But if nothing else, the human headline will have some big expectations on his big shoulders when he runs out for the Tri-colours in 2013.